I love cities. I love feeling like the city doesn’t need me or anyone else. The city is its own world, own ecosystem, own culture totally disconnected from the outside world. The city goes on long after people leave its boundaries.
Tokyo is an efficient, modern even futuristic urban wonderland. Millions of people pulse through its veins everyday without a hitch.The density of businesses and people in Tokyo can be overwhelming. When you wander around you can not pass through a street, a neighborhood or a subway station just once because you will miss something. Each building has several levels packed with shops, restaurants and everything else imaginable.
When I stay in a large city I love the freedom of not having a car. The city provides everything I need. I can still hear the repetitive music that went with the announcement for my subway stop in Tokyo.“Nishi-shinjuku-gochome”. It doesn’t matter where you go in Tokyo because you are always connected to the transportation network.
Tokyo is really a city of many cities. New York might have Times Square as central point, but Tokyo has several areas just like that. Both Shinjuku and Shibuya overflow with lights, people, and energy any night of the week. The light is so bright it might as well be day and you can hear music blaring from the several large screens towering above the street playing advertisements for the masses below.
Tokyo is a city of contrasts. Mixed into the high energy concrete jungle you will find peaceful temples and green parks. Some temples are massive and crowded such as the one in Asakusa, while others are small and tucked away behind a subway station. You will find people visiting temples everyday.
If I had to pick a few words to describe Tokyo it would be modern, efficient and quirky. Sometimes Tokyo is all of those things at once. Take for example Uobei Sushi. Order your sushi on a screen and in minutes your food will travel from the kitchen to you on a conveyor belt. Check out the video below of the ordering experience at Uobei (posted by shanesvids).
To celebrate Tokyo’s quirkiness, take a stroll down Toy Street in Tokyo Station to buy your favorite Rilakkuma or Hello Kitty items (I saw several grown men in Tokyo with a toy charm on their briefcase with no shame). Use your spare coins to get some souvenirs in one of Tokyo’s capsule stores. Too intimidated to speak with your waiter? No problem. Just put your money or subway card into a vending machine and bring your receipt to your table. Your ramen will appear shortly.
Unfortunately, all the fun you are having in Tokyo can get expensive in a hurry. Instead of a major chain, try staying in a Tokyo business hotel. These hotels are designed with business travelers in mind, but are very convenient for every kind of traveler. The rooms at Tokyu Stay hotels are typically under $100 USD a night. Most rooms include breakfast, an in-room washer/dryer and a set of pajamas to use during your stay to reduce the amount of clothing you will need to pack. Most importantly each room has a toilet with more features than you will know how to deal with.
To save money on food consider 7-11. Yes, I just said 7-11. To many Americans 7-11 brings to mind brightly colored sugary drinks and stale hot dogs. In Tokyo 7-11 is everywhere and it is a great food option especially if you are on a budget. We ate breakfast, lunch or a snack everyday at 7-11. For breakfast, choose from a selection of pastries and coffees, while for lunch you can grab some gyoza or noodles. The food was always fresh and delicious. The workers were always happy to warm the food up for you and throw some chopsticks and wet napkins in your bag before you go. Don’t believe me? Take a 7-11 food tour below (video posted by Yummy Inspirations).
You will not be satisfied with one trip to Tokyo. Dizzy with thoughts about the places you did not have time to visit you will want to keep going back to see what you missed. Jump on the subway and get out in any neighborhood in an entirely different world over and over again.